Looking for authentic local cuisine in the Portuguese capital? We enlisted an expert to help guide us to the best food in Lisbon.
List the most celebrated culinary capitals of Europe on one hand, and chances are you’ll run out of fingers before you get to Lisbon. It’s not that the food isn’t amazing here; it’s just that the city doesn’t have quite the same reputation for haute cuisine as Paris, Madrid or Naples, or even more recent, arriviste destinations such as London or Copenhagen.
Yet, Lisbon is still a great destination for foodies anywhere on the continent. It has one of the best street-level food scenes anywhere, with a long history of honest, unfussy grub made with simple ingredients. The local dishes are designed for communal enjoyment rather than culinary ostentation.
Culture Trip teamed up with French-born, Amsterdam-based chef Matthieu Eid to explore this scene, and you couldn’t have a better guide. Matthieu is well-versed in the best cooking in Europe, and the first time he visited Lisbon, he had a culinary revelation. “Before travelling to Portugal, I thought that the most enjoyable food was fancy food, elaborate food,” he says. “But, after discovering Portuguese cuisine, I became aware that by putting a lot of love, a lot of pride into the food you make, you can make amazing dishes.”
Here are the highlights he and his local friends picked out for you to try, along with details of how to find them for yourself.
Arguably the most famous Portuguese food of all, these tiny custard tarts are a staple of hipster bakery shelves around the world. But, like Guinness in Ireland, they taste better at the source – and you can try them as part of a guided Lisbon walking tour on Culture Trip’s nine-day small-group Portugal adventure. Matthieu and his friends head to Manteigaria, in Luis de Camões square, to get theirs.
This Portuguese fast food is made with pork cooked in a spiced sauce. The exact ingredients vary (and José from As Bifanas do Afonso, on Magdalena Street, keeps his a closely guarded secret), but it usually includes garlic, piri-piri, white wine and paprika. Served in a white roll with chilli or mustard, it’s delicious.
Francesinha is originally from Porto, but the version served up at Lucimar, a family-run restaurant on Rua Francisco Tomás da Costa, rivals anything produced in the dish’s home town. A sandwich made with sausage, pork and beef, smothered in a port and beer sauce, it’s not a light snack, and it’s far from veggie-friendly. However, as Matthieu says, “It’s greasy, it’s fatty and it’s bloody delicious.”